A 14-year-old boy may have forever changed the way the auto industry views cyber security.
He was part of a group of high-school and college students that joined professional engineers, policy-makers and white-hat security experts for a five-day camp last July that addressed car-hacking threats…
With some help from the assembled experts, he was supposed to attempt a remote infiltration of a car, a process that some of the nation’s top security experts say can take weeks or months of intricate planning. The student, though, eschewed any guidance. One night, he went to Radio Shack, spent $14 on parts and stayed up late into the night building his own circuit board.
The next morning, he used his homemade device to hack into the car of a major automaker. Camp leaders and automaker representatives were dumbfounded. “They said, ‘There’s no way he should be able to do that,'” Brown said Tuesday, recounting the previously undisclosed incident at a seminar on the industry’s readiness to handle cyber threats. “It was mind-blowing.”
Windshield wipers turned on and off. Doors locked and unlocked. The remote start feature engaged. The student even got the car’s lights to flash on and off, set to the beat from songs on his iPhone. Though they wouldn’t divulge the student’s name or the brand of the affected car, representatives from both Delphi and Battelle, the nonprofit that ran the CyberAuto Challenge event, confirmed the details…
“It was a pivot moment,” said Dr. Anuja Sonalker, lead scientist and program manager at Battelle. “For the automakers participating, they realized, ‘Huh, the barrier to entry was far lower than we thought.’ You don’t have to be an engineer. You can be a kid with $14.”
She described the breach as more of a nuisance attack, and emphasized that, in this case, no critical safety functions, like steering, braking or acceleration, were compromised. But the incident underscored just how vulnerable cars have become.
None of this is geek news. Nor is is there any surprise to this display of auto industry leaders’ ignorance of the vulnerability of their tech, the sophisticated toolkits of hardware and software available to even kid-level hackers.
European manufacturers experienced something similar a few years back and revised their engineering designs to match reality. Some more successfully than others, some less so. Why American corporate leaders didn’t pay attention and learn speaks to how parochial, insular, most Americans are. Another part of that corporate [and political] personality is native to imperial populations. If you have the most power you think you must also know best how to do anything.
In fact, reality, especially when much of your culture is well past its peak, contradicts that belief.
Filling out applications at a sidewalk recruiting station
If Wang Jinyan, an unemployed factory worker with a middle school education, had a résumé, it might start out like this: “Objective: seeking well-paid, slow-paced assembly-line work in air-conditioned plant with Sundays off, free wireless Internet and washing machines in dormitory. Friendly boss a plus.”
As she eased her way along a gantlet of recruiters in this manufacturing megalopolis one recent afternoon, Ms. Wang, 25, was in no particular rush to find a job. An underwear company was offering subsidized meals and factory worker fashion shows. The maker of electric heaters promised seven-and-a-half-hour days. “If you’re good, you can work in quality control and won’t have to stand all day,” bragged a woman hawking jobs for a shoe manufacturer.
Ms. Wang flashed an unmistakable look of ennui and popped open an umbrella to shield her fair complexion from the South China sun. “They always make these jobs sound better than they really are,” she said, turning away. “Besides, I don’t do shoes. Can’t stand the smell of glue.”
Assertive, self-possessed workers like Ms. Wang have become a challenge for the industrial titans of the Pearl River Delta that once filled their mammoth workshops with an endless stream of pliant labor from China’s rural belly.
In recent months, as the country’s export-driven juggernaut has been revived and many migrants have found jobs closer to home, the balance of power in places like Zhongshan has shifted, forcing employers to compete for new workers — and to prevent seasoned ones from defecting to sweeter prospects.
The shortage has emboldened workers and inspired a spate of strikes in and around Zhongshan that paralyzed Honda’s Chinese operations last month. The unrest then spread to the northern city of Tianjin, where strikers briefly paralyzed production at a Toyota car plant and a Japanese-owned electronics factory.
Although the walkouts were quelled with higher salaries, factory owners and labor experts said that the strikes have driven home a looming reality that had been predicted by demographers: the supply of workers 16 to 24 years old has peaked and will drop by a third in the next 12 years, thanks to stringent family-planning policies that have sharply reduced China’s population growth…
The other new reality, perhaps harder to quantify, is this: young Chinese factory workers, raised in a country with rapidly rising expectations, are less willing to toil for long hours for appallingly low wages like dutiful automatons.
RTFA. Nothing surprising to someone who’s read any labor history. The distinct difference in China is that – no one is skipping any stages; but, time is compressed, the rate of change in every part of the socio-economic structure seems to happen overnight.
In the daily world of TV America, the funniest commentaries come from market analysts who worry over declining real estate prices and trends reversing the balance between production for export vs. production for domestic consumption in China. Which are primary goals of the government over the next five years.
It’s like the dweebs – usually on CNBC – who whine about Americans finally starting to save some of their family income instead of being dedicated consumers.